By 1962, Derek Boshier had already contributed to British Pop Art by building a model based on the influence and infiltration of the American way of life into that of his homeland. He pursued ideas through his own form of logic in an attempt to clarify a provincial, working-class existence contaminated by the dehumanizing effects of US popular culture. Americanism had crept into the social fabric of his country, and Boshier’s work routinely captured the essence of life in the UK through America’s advertising, comic strips, popular music, politics and social oblivion which helped him understand the less prosperous British society in which he lived.
For this exhibition, one painting and several drawings produced in 1962 have been selected. Boshier often used schemes of figuration and struggle that wedded international affairs with his inner battles. Each work is a stripped-down delineation in shape, gesture and synchronized kinetic energy that not only mirrors the pathos and mental status of the artist’s subject, but also offers his personal attitude about the manipulative tendencies of the multinational machine. While each piece appears to offer something useful, really, it predicts violent assaults on the stability of socially tranquil environments wherein a central figure represents submission to fate or victory over it. His pictorial vocabulary often shows falling figures, which were part of Boshier’s signature motifs. Swan—the only remaining painting of the period still in the artist’s collection—plays this type of figure against strong color and bold nonfigurative geometric design, while his drawn imagery conflates mark-making information rescued from line graphics, diagrams, body motion charts and performance. He materializes what can only be interpreted as maniacal actions taking place between himself and the unknown or between himself and his elected sign of stability—the pyramid. The codes and enactments may seem fictitious, but their underlying principles are honest and realistic.
Boshier’s judgments are not formed in an overly determined way that subtracts from their strength. His drawings, especially, border on becoming abstract at times with the artist’s representations shown in clear bits of pencil lead that have left phrenological traces on paper. The fragmented images and gestures hint at social constructs that have been plaited into constrained and corrupted minds. Additionally, the symbolic action of bodily presence personifies nobody in particular, but is one that evokes the collective body—the body we all share. Boshier reclaims his emotional space within a hardened society by creating diagrammatic images that are persuasively closer to the type a child would make before his or her innocent state of mind has been erased by socialization.
In the summer of 1962, on completing his postgraduate course at the Royal College of Art, Boshier left Pop Art and London for a year in India where his imagery turned to Hindu myths. And long after he left his college peer group—David Hockney, Pauline Boty, RB Kitaj, Peter Phillips and Allen Jones, to name a few—he met the future Clash frontman, Joe Strummer, while Boshier was teaching at the Central School of Art and Design in the early 1970s. Boshier later designed songbooks and other material for The Clash and David Bowie.